by Jonathan Daugherty
Obedience – the act or practice of obeying; dutiful or submissive compliance. ¹
In order to get off to a good start on unraveling this characteristic of obedience, it is important that we understand its basic definition. Therefore, I have included a very standard definition (above) that simply states what obedience is. This should be the end of today’s post, right? Should be, but it’s not.
The definition above just doesn’t satisfy. Sure, it is direct, understandable, even possible to perform if one were so inclined. But it is also incomplete because it doesn’t really get to the heart of the fundamental essence of obedience: authority! If you look at the definition of “obedient” you might come across some more direct statements regarding authority, but even then you are left guessing at what authority means or where it comes from. Authority is essential to obedience, especially as God has structured things.
God is the original Authority. There is no authority apart from God, for God is sovereign over all that He has made. Everything in all creation is ultimately subject to the word and will of God. Therefore, any authority established on earth is really subject to God’s overall authority. The bible even declares this:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1
If authority is essential to understanding obedience, and all authority has been established by God, how does this expand our definition (if at all) of obedience?
I suggest that a more complete definition of obedience would be “the practice of submissive compliance to established authority, out of reverence and love of God.”
Let’s assume this is a good definition. (Who knows, I could be wrong…) If it is, how might this change your attitude and perspective toward all authority around you? Does it change your view toward government officials, police officers, pastors, parents, employers, etc.? If all authority flows down from God, and if God has the expectation that we obey Him (and He does), what changes might this affect in our thinking, our attitude, and our actions toward those in authority over us?
I know this is convicting stuff. I’m not even that thrilled to write it (is that too honest?). But there is a reason why God’s Word is called a Sword. (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12) Truth is meant to cut, to slice away all that is not pure, all that doesn’t come from our perfect Father above. I believe if we allow the proper definition of obedience to penetrate our hearts, we will ultimately come to a place where we find peace and joy because we are humbly resting under God’s authority as He has seen fit to establish it over us.
Who in authority over you is God challenging you to view in a different light? Can you trust God enough to submit? Unless those in authority are demanding you break God’s law, absolute obedience is expected…and rewarded in eternity.
¹ “obedience.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 14 Sep. 2009. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/obedience)